Opinion: Surface Pro vs Macbook

DukeofDork

New Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2017
Location
USA
Hey guys,
I am a lighting designer working with a 2010 Macbook and I am thinking about upgrading to a new notebook. Mac is currently on my crap list lately due to its removal of both the HDMI and their standard USB ports and having a bunch of adapters to use the simplest tools should not be an option. I want designer's input on their surface pro and how to have them able to sketch, program, and integrate their notebook to their career
 

Jay Ashworth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
St Pete FL USA
The Surface line all run Win10 natively.

So far as I know, there is no way to keep them from upgrading on their own at a random time.

In my not-so-humble opinion, this is a hard down-check to using them as production equipment. Even if you disable the wifi during a show to avoid the unit trying to upgrade between cues -- assuming that the wifi isn't critical path to getting the production done in the first place -- you can't guarantee it won't upgrade on you duing the entire run, possibly breaking some software you depend on.

I would not recommend using anything Win10 based as production gear.

Production-support is a separate question, with the same constraints, though they're slightly further from the critical path.
 

mikebags

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2011
Location
Chicago area
I own both a Surface Pro 4 and MacBook Pro running windows 7 alongside OSX. As time went on, and as I started doing more field service work I found myself in Windows more than OSX. When it came time to get a new machine I decided to give the Surface a try. I bought the i7 right at launch. There were stability, and heat issues at first but over the next few months through updates it's become just as stable as any of my other machines. I am really pleased with how much power it has, both AutoCAD and Fusion 360 run very well.

That being said. I do have to carry a bag of adapter/interfaces (USB hub, USB NIC, mini display port to HDMI, USB serial interface). Also I've had some major issues with the high DPI display. This is not so much a problem specific to the Surface but windows poor scaling. There's just some software I cannot use because they were not designed with high DPI displays in mind. Windows updates are a thing to keep in mind, I've not had windows 10 kick me off to install an update, but I have had to restart my machine for one reason or another and been stuck waiting for and update. More than once I've found myself on a job site in a electrical closet sitting on a bucket waiting for my updates to install.

At the end of the day I really enjoy using the Surface. I spend a lot of time away from my workstation at the office so the Surface sees a lot of use from editing spreadsheets, drawing in AutoCAD, Commissioning a system or running a show with M-PC. The MacBook now lives in a pelican case and comes out a few times a year when we don't want to drag our full Qlab rig out. I would highly recommend you do some research on the web and see if the specific software you'd like to use runs correctly on a high resolution display.
 

MNicolai

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Mar 30, 2008
Location
Sarasota, FL
Welcome to the Booth!

I can echo the Windows updating is dangerous. I know more than a couple people who have been bitten by spontaneous upgrades or updates installing that were not prompted nor welcomed. These may be isolated incidents but in the realm of mission critical production equipment, there's certainly some amount of risk here.

For my laptop, I'm on a Macbook Pro, the last rev before they pulled the HDMI and USB off. I find it much more stable and capable than my last Windows 7 laptop. I don't mind carrying adapters because I use my laptop for connecting into all kinds of systems so I always have to have a bag of RS232, RJ45, HDMI, VGA, 3.5mm audio, and so forth with me anyway. The only one I find myself ever using consistently is the Thunderbolt/Ethernet adapter.

If I didn't have a USB port, I could see myself needing that adapter intermittently for flash drives but most of the time it would live in the bottom of my bag. My philosophy is that any data on flash drives or on my laptop is sacrificial because it's so easy to lose a laptop or a flash drive. Any sensitive data is backed up over Dropbox to my home PC, which constantly backs up to the cloud over Crashplan. Between Dropbox/Crashplan/Teamviewer, so long as I have internet I can access any file in my possession on any computer I have. Really eases the burden because I only carry files with me for active work. Anything in my archives from old projects stays on my home or work PC. If I'm working on something on-site and need a light plot from 2 years ago, I just remote into either of those PC's, throw it into Dropbox, or log into Crashplan and download directly.

The hardest I push it is either with Qlab or when I'm programming/tuning a sound system. Being able to run Windows under Parallels on one IP subnet, with the Mac side on WiFi and hard-lined into a separate IP subnet, I can bounce back and forth between multiple networks or multiple subnets within the same network without tripping over anything. I have not yet discovered a faster or at least equivalent workflow on a Windows box where I can have that kind of streamlined flexibility.

It'll really come down to your workflow, but for how I operate, the Macbook Pro suits my needs more appropriately than a Windows laptop, even without all the ports we've all become accustomed to.
 

sk8rsdad

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Aug 15, 2008
Location
Ottawa
You can also upgrade to Windows Pro and take back more control of your device.